AFC North: James Johnson
Becky from Galloway, Ohio, writes: Any chance the Cincinnati Bengals will cut J.T. O'Sullivan or Jordan Palmer?
James Walker: This has been a hot topic in Cincinnati, Becky. I suggested before the preseason started that the Bengals should at least consider keeping two quarterbacks to save a roster spot at receiver, defensive back or linebacker. The coaching staff could not be encouraged with what they saw last week against the Dallas Cowboys, but the good news is the Bengals have five preseason games this year. Let's see if the quarterback play improves this weekend.
Nick Kenner from Florence, Ky., writes: With the recent injury to Brian Leonard of the Cincinnati Bengals, what are the chances the Bengals will try to go after Brian Westbrook?
Walker: This isn't going to happen, Nick. Leonard's prognosis was better than expected and Cincinnati already signed running back James Johnson to fill in for the time being. Keep in mind, Leonard was only the third running back. The Bengals don't need to sign a potential starter like Westbrook to replace him. Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott will get the bulk of the carries.
Ben from Grocton, Conn., writes: Is there a chance rookie receiver Emmanuel Sanders gets playing time as the No. 3 receiver?
Walker: The Steelers are comfortable with Antwaan Randle El as their No. 3 receiver, Ben. Sanders has good potential, but the team needs some proven veterans on the field offensively while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger serves his conditional six-game suspension.
Patrick from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Is it possible that the Steelers could re-sign Willie Parker?
Walker: Patrick, last I checked Parker signed with the Washington Redskins.
Joe from South Bend, Ind., writes: How much will the Cleveland Browns' offensive line help quarterback Jake Delhomme?
Walker: This is probably the best thing going for Delhomme, Joe, because from what I saw in camp this week, the receivers and offense in general are not very dynamic. The line should help give Delhomme some time in the pocket and boost the running game.
CJ from North Carolina writes: What's the word from camp regarding James Davis?
Walker: Davis looks decent, CJ. But he's not lighting up training camp the way he was a year ago. The preseason will be big for him, because the Browns have a lot of running backs.
Broderick Ramsey from Los Angeles, writes: What will the Baltimore Ravens do about their secondary?
Walker: There's been a lot of trade speculation lately, Broderick, but the Ravens will have to give away a good player to get a good player. Would they be willing to trade running back Willis McGahee, for example? I’m not sure. Baltimore could also just wait it out and see if its two cornerbacks -- Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington -- get healthy enough for the regular season.
Jonah from Minot, N.D., writes: Are you much of a "Madden" gamer, JW? Also, what's your favorite team to use?
Walker: I am officially retired this year, Jonah. I don't have much time anymore during football season. But I used a variety of teams when I played just to keep things interesting.
Here are this week's comments and complaints from our AFC North community:
Silas Fontain from Denmark writes: Steelers fans are entertaining. Last year around this time they were the kings of everything coming off their Super Bowl win, and nobody would beat them. This year the Bengals fans are high on their division title, and the Steelers fans are the one's trying to talk about reality. Oh boy, memory is short.
RJ from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: With mistakes in Super Bowl XL, I guess we're supposed to assume that a different team would have won if not for the mistakes, right? But anyone who saw that game knows that the Steelers had the better running game and defense. Besides, several times the officials have admitted to making mistakes that hurt the Steelers -- most notably in that playoff game against Jacksonville. So, it balances out.
Kizzie from Iraq writes: Being from Baltimore, I hate the Steelers and love the Ravens. But with that said the Ravens' and Bengals' opening schedules are brutal. The Steelers will still be in the division race after Ben Roethlisberger's suspension.
Kenny from Cleveland writes: Could you be any more in love with the Bungles right now?
Nick Langseth from Minneapolis, Minn., writes: I am a huge Bengals fan from North Dakota and have had to endure terrible Bengals teams in my youth. So now I am savoring every good moment I can. I love the Bengals.
Brian from Erie, Pa., writes: Why does every athlete hate on Cleveland so much? Let me put it this way. You can constantly play on the "rookie" level in Madden and always win the Super Bowl. But its gets boring. Winning on "All-Madden" is something you have to work for and is so much more rewarding when you finally get there. Players want fans to worship them, but hate when we come down on them for not performing their jobs. Sure, you can play in Jacksonville and never get booed, but that's because people don't care. If a team ever wins in Cleveland, they will be loved forever unlike anyone has seen.
AFC North blog hater of the week
Unconvinced from Indiana writes: You've spent the early part of your career covering Ohio teams. You LIVE in Cleveland. How do you expect anyone to believe you'll write objectively about other teams in the AFC North?
If you have any additional comments or complaints, send them to our division inbox.
- Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata (back) returned to practice and will play in Thursday's preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers.
- With Brian Leonard injured (foot), the Cincinnati Bengals signed running back James Johnson.
- Pittsburgh Steelers middle linebacker Larry Foote is willing to take a smaller role this season.
- The Cleveland Browns suffered three injuries in Tuesday morning's practice: cornerback Eric Wright, linebacker Marcus Bernard and defensive lineman Brian Schaefering.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
CINCINNATI -- At some point this summer, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and his staff will have to sit down and make some tough decisions on the 53-man roster. And several of those tough calls will be at running back.
|Nelson Chenault/US Presswire|
|Cedric Benson is Cincinnati's clear-cut starter, but the pecking order behind him is still unclear.|
Currently there is a crowded field behind starter Cedric Benson, who is one of the few locks at the position to make the team. After Benson, tailbacks such as James Johnson, DeDe Dorsey, Kenny Watson and Bernard Scott all will be vying for carries and roster spots this season.
In addition, Brian Leonard is versatile enough to split time at fullback and tailback to take reps away from the aforementioned group, making for an even tighter competition.
"It's a lot of guys and a lot of competition," Lewis said. "I think it's going to be exciting to watch how it shakes out."
This week's mandatory minicamp will begin to provide some clarity. Not everything can be determined for running backs without pads. But the players who show the most potential on the practice field over this three-day session likely will earn a majority of the early reps entering training camp, as those players will remain fresh on the coaches' minds.
As a team, the Bengals are in need of two things at running back: A home-run hitter and a third-down option. Benson is more of a grinder who averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in 2008.
If Cincinnati can find a quicker, speedy tailback to provide a change of pace and catch consistently out of the backfield, that will add another dimension to the offense.
Watson, an eight-year veteran, showed plenty of that in the past. But he is now 31 and coming off an injury-plagued season. Dorsey also has been unable to stay healthy recently and Johnson and Scott are even more unproven, which is why this summer is so important.
"I think it gives us an opportunity to really take a good look at those guys early in training camp and early in the preseason, and see what guys will end up sticking with us," Lewis added about his running backs.
Benson getting a full season under his belt and the possible development of these backups will be key in Cincinnati's success, as the Bengals are trying to become a more physical team in an ultra-physical AFC North division.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Wrapping up our series of 2008 drops in the AFC North, we take a look at the Cincinnati Bengals.
These drops are for the regular season only and according to the Elias Sports Bureau.